Writing Report Cards: Ideas for Teachers-in-Training

Our school is close to Vancouver Island University. An Educational Assessment class meets in our library every Wednesday morning. Thirty students and their professor discuss ideas and then go into the classrooms to see “assessment in action.”

Sometimes the teachers are asked to come and present ideas. Tomorrow, eight of us are sharing the “Road to Writing Report Cards,” a process often daunting to young educators.

So I am preparing my notes. (This is what I enjoy about having university students in the building: I have an opportunity to reflect upon processes not often verbalized.)

I’m trying to keep in mind that these students have never written report cards before. What should I tell them?

Here are my thoughts so far:

  1. Become familiar with your district’s report card. Ask the principal for a top-notch exemplar.
  2. Know your goals. Assessment begins with planning.
  3. Know your students. Yes, look at the files. It is crucial to look at the files. How would you react if your doctor didn’t look at your history? If she thought she’d just gather her own impressions, give you a fresh start? The files contain all designations, assessments, referrals, medical reports, psychological tests, legal papers, number of absences, and previous report cards.
  4. Spend most of your assessment energy on formative assessment (see Dylan Wiliam’s work). Do NOT put all eggs (and endless hours) into the summative assessment basket.
  5. Allow students to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways (see #3).
  6. Listen to classroom interactions and conversations. Keep a clipboard ready to record observations.
  7.  Keep work samples, projects, journals. As report cards near, have students submit their best work in a portfolio with a self-assessment.
  8. Keep report card comments clear and precise. Include ways to move student learning forward.
  9. Find a colleague in the school to give you feedback. You are not alone!

I think these will make a great start. What do you think—have I missed something obvious? Let me know!

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